Why Parents Should Not Wish for a Gifted Athlete in their Child

By Marijo Tinlin January 4, 2011 No Comments   

What parent doesn’t daydream about their child winning a full ride scholarship for a sport they started at age 4?

Most people think that possibility is only for the “gifted” athletes- those kids who are naturally strong, nimble, coordinated, whatever it takes to succeed in their chosen sport.

This notion of giftedness is both a blessing and a curse, says sports psychologist, parenting expert, speaker, consultant and athlete Dr. Jim Taylor. In a recent article he wrote for his website, he actually suggests taking the word “gifted” out of your vocabulary and replace it with words such as “hard word, attitude and skills.”

The curse of being perceived as gifted means kids have a false sense of security and accomplishment – “I won and I didn’t even try,” he says.  

He suggests you don’t tell your kids he or she is a gifted athlete because what’s the point? A) Parents are notoriously bad judges of giftedness, he says and B) When you tell them they are gifted, children think this is a free pass for not working hard, since they have a “gift.”

He points out that plenty of gifted athletes actually waste their skills and end up washing out (Think Ricky Williams) or never truly accomplishing their full potential because they believe they do not have to work hard.

He tells the story of an athlete he worked with in a junior ski race program in Colorado. The kid was terrible at racing BUT he had the heart of Rudy Ruettiger, the Notre Dame football benchwarmer made famous in the eponymously-named 1993 movie. He was the first one on the weight room each day, the kid who asked all the questions, took the best care of his equipment, and was the last off the mountain each day.

While he was never going to be a great ski racer and people often asked why he kept going, he was learning very important life skills that translated into a very successful academic career and a road to medical school. That persistence, hard work, extra time and effort – all of this translates into a very successful person.

So, now, as parents, do we really want our kids to have it easy or do we want to instill life skills and the value of hard work in our kids through their athletics? The odds of ending up with a Wayne Gretsky or a Michael Jordan (who both were gifted AND worked very hard) are small so think about that the next time you are about to tell your young athlete how gifted he or she is.

To read the full article from Dr. Taylor, please go to his website link here.

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